ECO TOURISM | First Nations Trail Development: Sustainable economic development & healthy living

Xats’ull First Nations Trail Crew, Kyle (Yr. 2 Soda Creek Trail Crew). Photo: John Wellburn

Xats’ull First Nations Trail Crew, Kyle (Yr. 2 Soda Creek Trail Crew). Photo: John Wellburn

By Thomas Schoen, Chair, CMBC  

Trail recreation, including hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and particularly mountain biking, is growing in popularity throughout British Columbia. Numerous communities throughout the province, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, are investing significantly in trails as a means for enhancing the liveability of their communities and to attract and retain residents. In addition, trail recreation and tourism are also growing and providing exciting new opportunities for economic development.

The development of trails can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of communities. Trails make a significant contribution to community development, creating opportunities for healthy active living, recreation, and connection to nature.

Many communities and First Nations communities, in particular, are deeply concerned for the health and well-being of their membership and are keen to create new opportunities for recreation and to support their membership to engage in healthy active living.

Trails have always been an important element of the indigenous economy and they play an important role in asserting a presence on the land and for upholding Aboriginal Rights & Title.

In many rural First Nation communities, trails are often left out of the community planning process resulting in few opportunities for recreation and active transportation. Quite often, the only options are along roadways, which are often dangerous and undesirable for use from a recreational perspective. The Soda Creek Indian Band (Xats’ull First Nation) started the process of trail development in 2104 by engaging with the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program (AYMBP). The AYMBP delivered a number of workshops and riding clinics and the community decided to move forward with a large-scale trail development project. In 2015, a crew of local trailbuilders worked on a trail near Deep Creek and in the summer of 2016 started construction of a trail that will run from Blue Lake to the Xats’ull Heritage Village.

While constructed as a multi-use trail, it features many challenging and fun technical trail features for mountain bikers.

In 2015/16 the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program delivered a number of ride clinics and trail-building workshops in our region: The Williams Lake Indian Band, Yunesit’in First Nation, Xeni Gwet’in, and the Redstone First Nation all participated in the program.

Trails connect us as a group of hikers and riders, they connect us with wildlife and with nature. Trails get us away from our electronic devices and our desks, they expose us to the elements, and they let us see the world around us in all its beauty. Now more and more, trails connect us as people and bring First Nation’s builders and non-Aboriginal trail users together… And that’s a great thing to see happening!

 

Thomas is a McLeese Lake resident since 1993, who runs a trail planning and building company. He works as the ED for the Central Interior Regional Arts Council and volunteers on a number of regional non-profit boards.

 

 

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